Posted by: airkayaks | April 12, 2019

Product Review: New Convertible Elite High Pressure Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

 Advanced Elements of Benicia, California recently introduced one of two new kayaks for the 2019 product year. The AE1007E Convertible Elite is a package upgrade to the long-standing, popular AE1007R Advanced Elements Convertible inflatable kayak for one or two paddlers.

Advanced Elements Convertible Elite set up as a tandem.

First launched in 2003 as the AE1004 AdvancedFrame2, the original model featured an integrated deck for double paddling. The kayak was reintroduced in 2006 as the AE1007R AdvancedFrame Convertible, sporting an open cockpit design which could be enclosed with optional single and double decks for solo or tandem paddling.

The new AE1007E Convertible Elite features the identical kayak materials and construction as the current AE1007R, but with upgraded accessories and features. The Convertible Elite now comes with a 4-6 PSI drop stitch floor, rather than the standard 1 PSI PVC floor with i-beams. The increased floor rigidity enhances the paddling experience with better tracking and glide.

The Convertible Elite arrived this past month so we took the opportunity – during a brief break in the rains – to put it through its paces. Here are details on the AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite AE1007E, a 15 foot inflatable kayak with high-pressure floor weighing in at roughly 54 lbs.

Getting Started with the Convertible Elite

The box as received weighs 60 lbs, measuring 34 x 21 x 12 inches.

What's included inside the box.

Inside, the rugged backpack-style carrying case houses the kayak body, floor, seats, thwart, repair kit and instructions. The kayak with backpack and parts weighs in at 52.4 lbs, while the kayak body is 44 lbs.

Important instructions are sewn into the bag.

Please note: A quick “overview” of set up is now sewn into the inside of the carrying case – we highly recommend that you read this.

Convertible Elite Setup/Inflatation

We began by reading the updated manual. This, too, has evolved over the years and gives excellent explanations on inflation, usage, refolding, etc. And here we come to AirKayak’s Tip #1: No matter how excited you are, take a good look at how the kayak is folded before you set the kayak up, so that you can get it back into the carrying case.

Unfolding the Convertible Elite

First step, unfold the kayak. (Please note: We will repeat some of the details previously mentioned in other writeups.) The AdvancedFrame series of kayaks feature an “inner rib” in the bow and stern, which is basically a u-shaped aluminum rib, about a foot long and one-half inch wide.

Inner rib frame

This comes “pre-assembled” meaning it arrives already inserted into two sleeves inside the kayak cover. Unless you remove the inner bladder, they remain in position. When the kayak is pumped up, the inner bladder with rib presses against the kayak cover – that, in conjunction with two bow and stern plastic sheets, give the kayak a sharp silhouette which aids in slicing through the water. (Please note: We removed the rib from the kayak for illustration purposes, it comes assembled.)

Closing the military valve

The kayak features 8 inflation chambers – two screw-on valves (kayak main body), one military valve (floor) and 5 twist-loks (seats, thwart and two deck lifts). The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – twist one way to inflate (UP position) and the other to deflate (DOWN position).

Various adaptors

Each Convertible Elite comes with a screw-on adaptor (center image, found in the repair kit in the mesh pocket behind the seat) which locks onto many pumps with pin/slot hose fittings. Additionally, a standard Boston valve adaptor (left image) will friction fit directly into the valve opening. A separate adaptor is also included for the high pressure floor (right image).

Miltary valve screw on attachment

Attach the screw-on adaptor to your pump and then couple it to the first main chamber, located on the rear hull. While there is not a pressure gauge included with the kayak, the adaptor features a “lip” that pushes open the spring plunger, allowing a pump gauge to read the back-pressure; if using the Boston valve adaptor, most gauges will only register as you are inflating (needle will go up and down).

Pumping up the Convertible Elite first chamber.

Pump up the first chamber, located on the top-rear of the kayak, until it begins to fill out – we did about 50 strokes with a double action hand pump. Unlike many other brands, the AdvancedFrame series of kayaks features an inner and outer chamber, with a floating “interior wall.”

By pumping up the first chamber partly, you “center” the inner wall. Check the side tubes to make sure they are even within the cover, and check the floor to see if it is still centered.

Pumping up the Convertible Elite second chamber.

Then pump up the second chamber, located inside the kayak behind the seat, until firm to touch (2 PSI) – this took us another 30 pumps. This ensures that both main chambers are now at 2 PSI. Screw on the black wing nut caps so the plungers aren’t accidentally twisted open later.

The dropstitch floor adaptor

Now for the floor. Turn the spring plunger to the UP/inflate position. Inside the repair kit for the dropstitch floor is another adaptor with bayonet fitting; attach to the floor’s military valve with a slight twist until it locks into place. Pump up the floor to 4-6PSI – it will be very rigid, but it doesn’t take long at all with about 34 strokes. Remove the floor adaptor and screw on the wingnut cap. TIP: Put the adaptor in the mesh pocket behind the seat, so you don’t lose it.

Pumping up the dropstitch floor

If the kayak does not appear to be pumping up evenly, make sure that the bladder is centered in the cover, and the floor is centered in the kayak. Additionally, there are four velcro side strips that keep the kayak bladder in position inside the cover. Occasionally, the tubes shift initially, making the kayak appear lopsided. If this happens, deflate the kayak, then take two sheets of paper and insert between the velcro and tube. Pump up the kayak slowly, repositioning the tubes until even. Once everything is centered, remove the sheets of paper and let the velcro “fall where it may.”

The TwistLock valve

Move onto the two deck lifts inside the kayak “shoulders.” The deck lifts “sculpt” the body so that water has a tendency to run off – and not into – the kayak.

Pumping up the decklifts

Put the Boston valve nozzle OVER the twistlok valve on the first decklift. Pump this up until firm (1 PSI). Twist the valve shut, remove the adaptor and move on to second deck lift.

Pumping up the center thwart

Also using the twistlok, pump up the thwart to 1 PSI and place it behind the front seat, attaching to the velcro side strips with the tube side down.

Installing the center thwart

The thwart acts as a back rest support for the front paddler and can be a foot brace for the rear paddler. If paddling solo, put one seat in the center position without the thwart.

Attaching the seat

Then attach the seats by clipping the two straps into the appropriate side clips. If you will be paddling tandem, use the 1st and 3rd clip arrangement – for solo, use the center clips.

Inflating the high-backed lumbar seat

Then pump up the twistlok on each lumbar seat to 1 PSI (easiest just to use your mouth) and tuck the tube behind the seat so it doesn’ get in your way.

Inserting the plastic sheets

Insert the two plastic sheets into the bow and stern sleeves – as a note, this is sometimes easier to do when the kayak is not fully inflated.

The Convertible Elite can be carried over the shoulder

Less than 10 minutes and you’re done!

About Drop Stitch Floor Technology

High-pressure dropstitch material in the floor.

The term “drop stitch” is a method of construction which allows for much higher inflation and pressures than a standard PVC floor.

In a standard PVC floor (as shown above on the left), long “I-Beams” run the length of the floor, connecting the floor ceiling to bottom. This allows the floor to maintain a fairly uniform thickness, but if one of the I-Beams pops (due to over-inflation) the floor will become more like a blob.

Rigidity of drop stitch floor versus standard Convertible PVC floor

With drop stitch construction (shown above on the Convertible drop stitch floor), thousands of tiny threads connect both the top and bottom layers, creating a stronger link that can withstand much higher pressures. Higher pressures make for a more rigid floor, which can enhance paddling performance. This is the technology used in inflatable SUP paddle boards. The image below is from an Airis Inflatable Sport Kayak showing the interior drop stitching.

Airis Inflatable Sport window showing the drop stitch threads

Features and Specifications on the Convertible Elite

The AE1007E Convertible Elite consists of three layers. Inflatable PVC bladders are housed in a zippering fabric cover, allowing the bladders to be replaced if necessary. The covered bladders sit inside the kayak outer shell.

Rugged diamond ripstop material

The kayak upper is comprised of 600 denier polyester/PVC laminate in a diamond ripstop material.

Integrated tracking fin.

The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant PVC tarpaulin with electronically welded seams, reinforced nose, integrated 2.5 x 7.5 inch tracking fin and 16-inch landing plate.

Molded rubber handle

There are two molded rubber carrying handles (bow and stern), but it is fairly simple to carry by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder. These are located 16 inches from the bow and stern.

Plastic sheet insert

Two plastic sheets in the bow and stern – in conjunction with the interior aluminum ribs – provide added structure and rigidity.

Front bungee deck lacing

Bungee deck lacing in the bow – measuring 20 inches wide, tapering to 13 inches wide, and 17 inches deep – includes four d-rings and 3 sets of quick release clips, allowing one to add on various dry packs and gear. The deck lacing begins 32 inches from the nose and is positioned 34 inches from the front paddler. Four more d-rings can be found on the rear deck; these are positioned at 16 inches wide, tapering to 11 inches and 10 inches deep.

Open cockpit design

The 84 x 27 inch cockpit area features a hidden zipper running the perimeter – this is used to attach optional single or double decks. The optional decks act as further protection from the elements, and also have coaming tubes around the cockpit, allowing one to attach optional spray skirts.

Front zipper

A front center zipper can open up an additional 21 inches for easier entry or for those interested in a more open feeling.

Front zipper

There are 4 velcro paddle holders. These are located 50″ and 86″ from the bow on the left side of the kayak, for the front paddler, and 42″ and 76″ from the tail on the right side of the kayak for the rear paddler.

High-backed lumbar seat with paddle base.

The high-backed, padded lumbar seats features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position while rear stiffening rods create a comfortable option for those needing a bit extra back support than the standard seat offers. The seat back has an inflatable bladder with an extra long 36 inch TwistLok hose, allowing you to change the support level from 1-5 inches while kayaking! In addition, a side zipper allows you to open and move the bladder up or down until you “hit the right spot.”

Repair kit located in the mesh pocket behind the seat.

A gusseted, mesh pocket is located on each seat back; one houses the repair kit, screw-on adaptor and floor adaptor. The Convertible Elite now features a padded seat base to compensate for the rigidity of the floor. Seat back dimensions are 17 inches tall, with a seat base 18 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 1.5 inches thick. The seats can be adjusted about 10 inches in location, based on strap length.

Inflatable center thwart

An inflatable thwart performs multi purposes;  it helps keep the bladders spread apart, provides some support for the front seat back, and can also be used as a foot brace for the rear paddler.

Backpack style carrying case.

The traditional Advanced Elements carrying case has been updated, now coming with two adjustable shoulder straps, allowing one to use it as a backpack. There are also two top carrying handles. Bag size is a generous 36 x 16 x 11 inches.

We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is just slightly under 15 feet long and 33 inches wide. The side bladders are roughly 7 to 8 inches in diameter, making a well about 7 inches deep. Interior dimensions are approximately 114 inches long by 18 inches wide. The three seat attachment points are located at 18, 36 and 68 inches from the front cockpit opening. The thwart measures 17 x 8 x 10 inches – it is best to place it in the more horizontal position as more of the velcro will be utilized to keep it in position, but if needed, an extra 2 inches of legroom can be gained by positioning it “more vertical.”

Convertible Elite set up as a double.

In tandem mode, when the front seat is placed against the thwart, approximately 50 inches of legroom is available, while the rear paddler has 37 inches from the seat back to the thwart (expanding to 40 inches by rotating the thwart, or to 48 inches by removing it).  There are 10 inches behind the rear seat. The front seat could be moved up or back 5 inches.

Convertible Elite set up for solo paddling.

When solo paddling, with the back of the seat roughly 6 inches behind the center seat clips, there is approximately 69 inches from the seat back to the interior front end, and about 40 inches behind the seat; the thwart is not used in the solo position. This can be somewhat repositioned by adjusting the seat straps. Weight limitations suggest 500 lbs for two persons, or 550 lbs for two persons and gear.

One final comment – we are always asked if this can be broken down to fit in airline luggage, and the answer is yes. By separating the components, one can put the kayak hull in one suitcase, and the other parts in another.

Advanced Elements Convertible Elite On the Water

The Convertible Elite paddled as a tandem.

We first took the Convertible Elite out as a tandem on a calm day. The kayak is very comfortable, stable, rugged and paddles well. It was roomy for the two of us (5’4″ and 6’2″). With two paddlers, you are limited to carrying gear on top of the kayak, but there is so much front legroom that one could stash a pack and use it as a foot brace. The kayak is very zippy paddling straight though turning around is slightly less maneuverable.

The Convertible Elite paddled solo.

Each of us then took the Convertible Elite out solo. My husband at 6’2″ found the Convertible Elite to be roomy while paddling and tracking well. It easily rides over small swells without a blip.

The Convertible Elite paddled solo.

Despite my shorter size of 5’4″, the kayak was quite easy to paddle; the dropstitch floor makes a huge difference in this situation, as the standard Convertible (with low-pressure PVC floor) can be sluggish. In fact, I found the floor stiff enough to be able to stand up, albeit for a short time. In prior tests to compare the standard PVC floor to the dropstitch floor, we were running from 3.1 to 4.3 mph with the PVC, while we ran 3.6 to 4.7 mph with the dropstitch floor. There is also an intangible that I can’t quite put words to – one feels very confident in the kayak construction. While in the past I have used the backbone – which is also a great product – I find the simplicity of the dropstitch floor more to my style, and the added weight savings of 4-5 lbs more to my liking.

Carrying the Convertible Elite

While I was apprehensive about carrying such a large kayak alone, it can be managed by hooking the body over one shoulder; this becomes tougher in a stiff wind. For those who don’t want to attempt it, the Advanced Elements AE3010 dolly cart is a marvelous portable breakdown wheel-set that easily straps onto the kayak hull, allowing one to portage through all types of terrain.

In fact, my only “complaint” (this is too strong a word) is the lack of a foot brace – particularly when out solo or as the front paddler. Once again, Advanced Elements has an adjustable foot peg system which is quite useful for this kayak.

As we get so many questions about kayaking with dogs, we show a picture above with my (past) buddy Eddie, out for a spin in a Convertible with dropstitch floor. The material is rugged enough to handle dog claws.

Bottom Line on the Advanced Elements Convertible Elite Kayak:

The Advanced Elements Convertible Elite AE1007E inflatable kayak is a great kayak. First developed in 2004 as an elongated, enclosed version of the AirFrame, the Convertible Elite – now with high pressure floor – has evolved into an inflatable classic, offering performance, quality and price.

The Convertible Elite paddled solo.

The kayak is comfortable, paddles well, looks good and is quite stable. It is able to handle lakes, Class I to II rapids, inlets, bays and coastal ocean. With years of experience using the AdvancedFrame series of kayaks, we’ve been out in all types of weather from calm water to swells. The kayaks have battled rocky beaches and shallow waters, thick tules, white caps and wind. They’ve been tossed into the back of a pickup – they’re rugged.

As a tandem, it is roomy, paddles smoothly and is zippy. As a solo with the new high-pressure dropstitch floor, it becomes a great single kayak, particularly in conjunction with the optional single and double decks (shown above with the single deck on the Convertible DS in blue) which add a slight bit of structural integrity as well as the ability to attach a spray skirt.

High-backed lumbar seat provides support.

The high-backed lumbar seats with the new padded base are very comfortable and a huge improvement over the standard Advanced Elements seats.

The new backpack-style carrying case is much easier to carry, as well as slightly roomier, thus easier to repack.

Versatility is another aspect that makes the Convertible such a popular kayak. Numerous optional accessories – such as the foot pegs, single and double decks, spray skirts, kayak dolly – can enhance the paddling experience and performance.

The Convertible Elite easily fits in the trunk of a small car.

This is a great choice for travel – it’s perfect for RVs and easily fits in the trunk of a small car. When paddling solo, the kayak’s long length provides ample amount of storage space, making it an excellent choice for a solo paddler interested in camping excursions as well as anglers wanting to set up a fishing kayak with lots of gear.

The Convertible Elite paddled solo.

All in all, the Convertible Elite from Advanced Elements is a great multi-purpose kayak for families, people of all ages and paddling needs. Novices and first-time users will be on the water in no time, while experienced paddlers will find the portability and low-profile hull a great boon. This is also a great solo kayak for the “big and tall” – particularly with the nifty solo deck.

Convertible Elite paddled solo.

Street price is $949. For more info or to purchase, see the Convertible Elite product page at http://www.airkayaks.com. We also have the high-pressure Convertible DS in blue – this is the same kayak but with an integrated front foot brace system and pump with gauge. Looking for a smaller, more portable single option? Check out the 10’10” AdvancedFrame DS XL , the XLC with removable cover, as well as the new Advanced Elements Sport DS also exclusively available at AirKayaks.

Still confused at the options? Read our article on Choosing Your Advanced Elements Convertible, Convertible DS or Convertible Elite Inflatable Kayak.


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